Darling backs prying by CSA

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The Independent Online
NEW POWERS to allow the Child Support Agency to investigate the income of errant fathers were defended yesterday by Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary.

The agency is to be allowed unprecedented access to Inland Revenue computer files to cross-check on the income of absent fathers. It will enable the agency to deduct maintenance payments according to a new sliding scale to simplify the system: 15 per cent of their net income for the first child; 20 per cent for the second; and 25 per cent for three or more.

The Conservative spokesman on social security, Iain Duncan Smith, said the plans would be an "appalling breach of privacy".

But Mr Darling said it was intolerable that rich absent fathers "running around in a BMW" should pay nothing toward their children's upkeep. "Most people would say it's entirely reasonable that where that father has money, and sometimes quite substantial amounts of money, we should require him to pay for that child," Mr Darling said.

The Social Security Secretary will be announcing anti-fraud measures this week. He is also planning longer-term changes to the law to let agency inspectors ask the Inland Revenue and National Insurance authorities for details of where unco-operative absent parents worked.

Mr Darling told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost: "We want to ensure fathers accept that if they help bring a child into the world they are responsible for that child for the rest of its life.

"The current situation, where you can find a mother has been left with a child but the father is running around in a BMW and apparently the CSA can't do anything about it, is intolerable."